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After months of budget workshops, Mayor Joe Carfora plans to propose the town’s no tax increase, zero dollar increase, and zero mill rate increase to the Town Council at its special meeting on Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. where it will vote on the budget.
“I feel ecstatic” to be able to propose a zero increase budget, said Jim Keeley, who has served as the town’s finance director for the past year after serving the previous 22 years in the Finance Department. “It’s been a tough year and I’m proud of the employees here in finance, Town Hall, and the town, in general, as a lot of hard work went into it with people being flexible and doing things differently than in the past. To come back with the same budget and feel very confident that the budget we presented last year will end on a good note is a good thing.”
Prior to the special meeting, there will be two public hearings so that the public can share comments and ask questions. The public hearing for the Board of Education (BOE) budget is Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. and the general government budget public hearing is Monday, April 19 at 7 p.m. All meetings will be held via Zoom and the link is available on the town website www.townofeasthavenct.org.
The budget proposal that will go before Town Council is for $93,455,354, the exact same amount as the 2020-’21 budget, with a zero increase to the current mill rate of 34.25. Of the full proposed amount, $48,044,271 is allocated for the BOE, which is about $1 million less than the BOE’s requested $49,021,836, but still a $50,000 or 0.1 percent increase from 2020-’21’s $47,994,271.
“To most people, $1 million seems like a radical cut, but normally the BOE’s budget request is higher and the cut is a bit more,” said Keeley. “Some BOEs have gotten a good amount of money with grant funding, which has helped.”
The Town of East Haven also received grant funding, though “it wasn’t as much as we hoped,” according to Keeley. In addition, the fire, police, and public works departments were able to take advantage of grant funding to reimburse COVID expenses and overtime, as well as secure new equipment.
Another factor that allowed for a zero increase budget was the town’s tax collection rate. In Keeley’s first year as the finance director, when creating the 2020-’21 budget, the town estimated a 96.7 percent tax collection rate knowing there was a pandemic that affected many residents financially. So far, the town has seen a collection rate of 97.7 percent, which has helped to increase revenues for the town and balance out lost revenues in other categories that were affected by COVID.
“We were very fortunate that our collection rate didn’t drop down as much as we projected,” said Keeley. “We were conservative with it being a pandemic so we based our number on the lowest collection rate over the last 20 years when we did last year’s budget and now we’ve exceeded it.”
The budget process for the 2021-’22 budget began in December when Keeley started compiling numbers for each town department and reviewing what had been spent of the allocated 2020-’21 budget to date. Keeley presented those numbers, along with the contractual obligations for the coming year, to department heads.
The department heads then review their budgets, reviewing every line item, to determine the department’s requests for the coming year. The department heads then present their budgets to Keeley and the mayor’s office and recommendations are made. The budgets then go before the Board of Finance for further recommendations. The Mayor’s Office then meets with department heads again before they present their budgets to the Town Council in workshop sessions. The public hearings are held after the workshops are completed and then the Town Council votes to adopt the budget.
“Working with this administration has been a pleasure,” said Keeley. “I’ve never worked harder than in this past year, but it’s been rewarding seeing the growth and positive movement in town. We’re in good shape and I’m very happy right now.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .